Senator asks for removal of SIB chairman Vince Graham; I-526 issues cited as reason

A Lowcountry lawmaker hoping to see a “new day” in South Carolina has requested the state’s new governor remove the chairman of the State Infrastructure Board (SIB).

Sen. Sandy Senn sent a letter to Gov. Henry McMaster Tuesday asking that SIB chairman Vince Graham be removed from his position due to his “close ties” to those who oppose the completion of I-526 and delays in discussing the project.

“This past year, Mr. Graham single-handedly delayed the work of the SIB by repeatedly refusing to call meetings or by canceling meetings when he knew that Charleston had the votes to move our projects forward,” Sen. Senn wrote. “He has succeeded in waiting until members of the board rotated off and new members have rotated on. In short, he has substituted his opinion for that of the board by not doing the job he was appointed to do and conduct meetings. For this alone, I believe that his serves on the board have been sub-par.”

Sen. Senn said she is joined in her call to have Graham removed by Representatives Stafrinkis, McCoy and Bennett.

In September Charleston County threatened legal action over delays with the SIB over the I-526 completion project.

Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey blamed SIB Chair Vince Graham for cancelling meetings where leaders hoped to work on a compromise for funding. Rep. Chip Limehouse (R- Charleston), a member of the board, confirmed Summey’s account.

“The board is not united in its plan for 526. But enough board members want to see it happen, so we would work something out in a meeting,” Limehouse said.

Graham, the founder of Mt. Pleasant's I’On development, did not respond to emails and calls requesting comment. He did speak with a Coastal Conservation League radio broadcast released the day one meeting was supposed to take place. In the broadcast, he says, "We've got to stop investing in infrastructure that doesn’t have a good return on investment, much less has a negative return on investment."

What’s the future of I-526?

In a December meeting SIB officials said they could still hold the project open through 2020. The decision to continue talks and review plans for funding went against a suggestion from Graham that the SIB pull out of the project.

Despite the chairman of the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Board suggesting they pull out, State Infrastructure Bank officials said they could still hold the Interstate 526 project through January 2020.

Earlier this week, the Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester council of governments met to discuss options for funding the Mark Clark Expressway. It was a meeting community leaders described as "encouraging."

It was unanimously approved that Guideshare funds from each county would be used to complete the work.

ABC News 4 has reached out to SIB chairman Vince Graham for comment. We will publish his response.

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